Click on photos to enlarge.

Friday, May 19, 2017

François Louis Thomas Francia

The Smugglers, Louis Thomas Francois Francia
For every artist I write about there are usually around five others which I investigate briefly before deciding they're not worth my time and effort. More importantly, my "rejects" strike me as not worth my readers' time in pursuing as well. That being said, I would hardly have given the French painter, François Louis Thomas Francia a second glance. Then I was a little taken aback by the gradual realization that I was, in fact, giving him a second look, having at some point, perhaps years ago, rejected him as being too insignificant to bother with. However, being a lover of the sea and more accurately, the ships from various eras which have sailed upon it, I was captivated by Francia's nautical depictions, particularly his obsession with shipwrecks. It would seem the man went out of his way to travel some distances to paint these oceangoing vessels having fallen victim to disasters.
Francia painted during the Romantic Era of art history.
The early 19th-century was a period when pirates, smugglers, and victims of mishaps at sea were popular in literature and art--the stuff legends (and royalties) were made of. Francois Francia was born in 1772 on the far northern tip of France near that country's border with Belgium. That's where the small port of Calais is located. Thus, it's little wonder he had a predisposition toward painting ships. And, given the chalky cliffs of Dover just across the channel, the rocky Normandy coastline just to the south, and the treacherous shoals near Calais itself, the whole area has been a hazardous graveyard for ships from all art eras.
The Lord Nelson, Woolwich Dockyard, 1815, Francois Francia.

Deal Lugger and Boats,
Francois Francia
Calais is little more than a two-hour ferry trip (probably around three hours in Francia's time) of some thirty-five miles from Dover, England. Thus, it's not surprising that more of the artist's paintings featuring ships and shipwrecks ori-ginated along the British shores of the channel than on the French side. In fact, Francia spent most of the early years of his life in England. The massive Lord Nelson (above), which dates from 1815, was built at a British naval base on the Thames. Though in this case we see an et-ching, it's obvious that Francia was well ac-quainted with the art, science, and engineering of shipbuilding. If the scale of Francia's drawing is accurate, even allowing for the tides, I find myself wondering how the shipyard managed to launch such a behemoth.

A Mountain Stream, Francois Louis Thomas Francia.
Vue d'Ecosse, 1824,
Francois Francia
Though the majority of Francia's art involved nautical scenes, I should note that he was equally adept at landscapes, though not nearly as dramatic. His watercolor, A Mountain Stream (above), is evidence of his interest in fresh water as well. Francia's Vue d'Ecosse (left), from 1824 would seem to be nearly as dramatic as his numerous storms at sea...and their aftermath. Though Francia painted most of his shipwrecks in oil, he was more partial to water-colors. He was a member of the Society of Painters in Watercolors (a British group), and for some time its secretary. However, yearning for bigger and better things (mostly sales), Francia resigned his membership in 1816 in order to launch himself as a candidate for an associate membership in the Royal Academy. He was rejected (perhaps because he was French, or maybe because he was not all that outstanding an artist in the first place). In any case, having been "taken down a notch" by his class-conscious British counterparts, the next year Francia returned to Calais, where he lived in obscure retirement until his death in 1839.

Vue des Environs de
Saint-Omer, 1826,
Francois Louis Francia
Windmill On a Knoll in a
Landscape, Francois Francia


No comments:

Post a Comment